As a bicycle rider myself – wear helmet, obey traffic rules – I find it stunningly hilarious that in a city of human projectiles, ranging from clueless to murderous, the one amateur who gets busted is Alec Baldwin.
Of all the people to snag, the police happened upon the surliest New Yorker of us all, so charming in his old Capital One commercials, so crude when tossing homophobic slurs at journalists or screaming insults at his teen-age daughter.
Of all the millions, why him, working his way through up Fifth Avenue, going against the flow? Needless to say, he smarted off to officers, got cuffed, back in May, and on Thursday he appeared in court in his old Capital One cuteness, to be called “Alexander” by the judge, and warned to be a “good boy.” How humiliating that must have been.
But the real question is, what were the odds that police would get him, when just about every cyclist I ever see – and dodge – in Obstacle City is breaking one law or another?
Living in a nearby suburb, I used to pop into the city on Sunday mornings, stick my bike on the back of my car, and ride around Brooklyn, Manhattan, even Staten Island one memorable time. It was great fun, at least til 10 AM or so, when motorists started gunning their engines.
Now I drive and walk and take the subway all over the city but I don’t ride my bike in New York, nor would I rent one of those new clunky-looking things from this new fad called Citi Bike.
In theory, making bikes available is a good idea – in Amsterdam, or maybe Seattle. But in New York, it only adds to the peril. It’s bad enough in New York dodging taxi and limo drivers – they are the worst, totally solipsistic – but cyclists in Manhattan are a close second.
New Yorkers have multiple sixth senses for avoiding danger, and one of them is to instinctively know you are about to be splattered by a delivery guy, going the wrong way, or on the sidewalk, or busting the light. Death by sweet-and-sour soup. Messengers at least are professional assassins, speeding through lights, merciless, and some of them carry whistles to give you a fighting chance to save your life, and at least they are agile to avoid wrecking themselves.
Now Citi Bike has put weapons in the hands of innocents. I did an unofficial survey the other day while parked in one of those weird new parking zones out in the middle of traffic. (What genius invented that?) I started counting merry cyclists playing in traffic and calculated that nine out of 10 – 90 per cent, doctor! – were not wearing helmets.
As a driver and pedestrian, I fear the sight of adults, in their first minutes on a rented Citi Bike, teetering off the sidewalk, handlebars wobbling, no helmet, of course, with a goofy smile on their faces, no doubt recalling the last time they rode a bike, when they were 13, back home in Grover’s Corners, or at summer camp. Whoopee, let’s go play in traffic.
It’s dangerous enough cycling in traffic if you obey the rules. On the peninsula where I live, I pause at signs, wait for red lights, and do not go down one-way streets. Some joker cut me off one time and the crossing guard near the post office screamed at him, made him stop, scolded him. Most drivers in my area are respectful. But ride a bike in Manhattan?
Right in the middle of all this anarchy, perhaps holding a coffee cup in one hand – how New York is that? – comes Alec Baldwin, no helmet, riding up Fifth, as entitled as an actor with a stunt man ready to do the hard parts. To paraphrase his old commercials, what’s in your brain pan?
Measuring Covid Deaths, by David Leonhardt. July 17, 2023. NYT online.
The United States has reached a milestone in the long struggle against Covid: The total number of Americans dying each day — from any cause — is no longer historically abnormal….
After three horrific years, in which Covid has killed more than one million Americans and transformed parts of daily life, the virus has turned into an ordinary illness.
The progress stems mostly from three factors:
First, about three-quarters of U.S. adults have received at least one vaccine shot.
Second, more than three-quarters of Americans have been infected with Covid, providing natural immunity from future symptoms. (About 97 percent of adults fall into at least one of those first two categories.)
Third, post-infection treatments like Paxlovid, which can reduce the severity of symptoms, became widely available last year.
“Nearly every death is preventable,” Dr. Ashish Jha, who was until recently President Biden’s top Covid adviser, told me. “We are at a point where almost everybody who’s up to date on their vaccines and gets treated if they have Covid, they rarely end up in the hospital, they almost never die.”
That is also true for most high-risk people, Jha pointed out, including older adults — like his parents, who are in their 80s — and people whose immune systems are compromised. “Even for most — not all but most —immuno-compromised people, vaccines are actually still quite effective at preventing against serious illness,” he said. “There has been a lot of bad information out there that somehow if you’re immuno-compromised that vaccines don’t work.”
That excess deaths have fallen close to zero helps make this point: If Covid were still a dire threat to large numbers of people, that would show up in the data.
One point of confusion, I think, has been the way that many Americans — including we in the media — have talked about the immuno-compromised. They are a more diverse group than casual discussion often imagines.
Most immuno-compromised people are at little additional risk from Covid — even people with serious conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or a history of many cancers. A much smaller group, such as people who have received kidney transplants or are undergoing active chemotherapy, face higher risks.
Covid’s toll, to be clear, has not fallen to zero. The C.D.C.’s main Covid webpage estimates that about 80 people per day have been dying from the virus in recent weeks, which is equal to about 1 percent of overall daily deaths.
The official number is probably an exaggeration because it includes some people who had virus when they died even though it was not the underlying cause of death. Other C.D.C. data suggests that almost one-third of official recent Covid deaths have fallen into this category. A study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases came to similar conclusions.
Dr. Shira Doron, the chief infection control officer at Tufts Medicine in Massachusetts, told me that “age is clearly the most substantial risk factor.” Covid’s victims are both older and disproportionately unvaccinated. Given the politics of vaccination, the recent victims are also disproportionately
Republican and white.
Each of these deaths is a tragedy. The deaths that were preventable — because somebody had not received available vaccines and treatments — seem particularly tragic. (Here’s a Times guide to help you think about when to get your next booster shot.)
From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.